Uploaded on Dec 17, 2010
Nestled deep within the eastern Ozarks is an area known as the Old Lead Belt; it is a major part of the great Southeast Missouri lead district, the premier lead mining district of the world. The mining industry in this area has played an important role in Missouri’s economic and social fabric for more than 280 years. St. Joseph Lead Co. is one of the major corporate enterprises that came to Missouri to mine lead. Lead and zinc production involved crushing and grinding the mined rock to standard sizes and separating the ore. This left behind piles of leftover rock called tailings that covered 4,000 acres in southeastern Cherokee County. These wastes were also a source of contamination. Lead, zinc, and cadmium from the tailings leached into the shallow ground water, contaminating local wells, and runoff moved contaminants into nearby streams and rivers. Wind also blew fine metal-bearing dust (from tailings piles and roads made of tailings) into the air, spreading the contamination to nearby non-mined areas. Radon gas from the mining operations was detected in the air around Galena. During the 1980’s, this area was considered one of the most environmentally blighted in the nation. Some of the cleanup efforts are funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund.
The EPA began working in the area in the early 1980’s and work is ongoing. The EPA divided the Cherokee County Site into six subsites that correspond to six general mining locations, including the areas around Galena, Baxter Springs, and Treece, Kansas. Because the area in and around Galena had some of the worst contamination, early cleanup efforts were centered there. Chief among these was the provision of safe water supply for rural residents whose wells had been contaminated. Two new wells were constructed in the deep aquifer, and a new rural water district was formed that currently provides over 500 households with a long-term source of clean drinking water. From 1997 to 1999, contaminated soil was removed from 602 residential properties in Galena and replaced with clean backfill and grass sod or seed; fifty additional properties were remediated in 2000 and 2001. Remediation of residential soils has been completed in Treece and is ongoing in Baxter Springs. Cleanup continues at other sites in southeastern Kansas. For more information, check the EPA Region 7’s website: http://www.epa.gov/region07/index.html . It does not matter if a person breathes in, swallows, or absorbs lead particles, the health effects are the same; however, the body absorbs higher levels of lead when it is breathed in. Within our bodies, lead is absorbed and stored in our bones, blood, and tissues. It does not stay there permanently, rather it is stored there as a source of continual internal exposure. Lead poisoning can happen if a person is exposed to very high levels of lead over a short period of time.
When this happens, a person may feel: Abdominal pain, Constipated, Excessively tired, Headache, Irritable, Loss of appetite, Memory loss, Pain or tingling in the hands and/or feet and Weak. Because these symptoms may occur slowly or may be caused by other things, lead poisoning can be easily overlooked as their cause. Being exposed to high levels of lead may cause anemia, weakness, and kidney and brain damage. Very high lead exposure can cause death. A person who is exposed to lead over time may feel: Abdominal pain, Constipated, Depressed, Distracted, Forgetful, Irritable, Nauseous/Sick. People with prolonged exposure to lead may also be at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, and reduced fertility.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have determined that lead is probably cancer-causing in humans. This clip is from the 1934 US Bureau of Mines film (made in cooperation with the St. Joseph Lead Company), THE STORY OF LEAD MINING AND MILLING. The entire film shows mining and milling operations in Southeast Missouri after diamond drills have located a lead vein. The film also shows the dairy, school, hospital, and offices of the St. Joseph Lead Company. The entire film is available at the US National Archives in Maryland.